The UK differs itself from virtually every other first world country when it comes to healthcare, as no one in the UK directly pays for it, and it is free at the point of consumption. Other first world countries, in particular the USA run a health insurance model whereby members of the public pay premiums, and should something go wrong, the insurance pays for the care and tests to be carried out.
It is true that yes, members of the public do pay for the NHS and do so indirectly through the payment of tax and national insurance contributions, and with the NHS being the 5th biggest employer in the world, the biggest employer in the UK, and has a budget of just over £104bn for the year 2012 its easy to appreciate that an organisation this big gets slated on a regular basis.
Members of the public’s biggest complaint about the NHS is waiting times to see a doctor in A&E or GP, and whilst some of those complaints may be well founded I have personally never had that problem.
Having the condition Crohns Disease I have used the NHS more than the average person in the street and yes on occasion it has meant waiting a couple of days for an appointment for a non urgent matter, but I can categorically say that when I have needed to see either my GP or Consultant I have never had to wait an excessive amount of time.
There are of course reasons why delays occur in the NHS, and its most likely due to the fact that those who are fortunate enough to rarely get ill over react when something happens. Attending A&E for a cold (which cannot be treated) and then complaining about a 6 hour wait is just one of these examples that causes delays for people who really need treatment.
This week I had problems with my left ear to such an extent that last night I awoke in awful pain and unable to sleep. I rang the GP and the earliest appointment was next week, although urgent I knew it wasn’t life threatening and having done my research online knew that it was just an infection that required antibiotics and painkillers.
Although not life threatening, I didn’t really want to wait over the weekend before I got treatment, and so I asked to see the Nurse Practitioner. My local GP surgery has a Nurse Practitioner available during open hours, and appointments are available same day as they cannot be booked in advance. I rang up at 9, and had an appointment booked in for 10:30.
I know what some people are thinking, why should I go and see a Nurse Practitioner, I want to see a GP.
Well firstly that may mean you having to wait, and secondly as far as I can tell, based on the service, there was no real difference. The nurse examined my ear, confirmed that I had an infection behind the drum and prescribed me the necessary medication to treat and relieve the symptoms. This is exactly what the GP would have done, only I would have had to have waited.
The service I received was top-notch, and I knew full well that if the Nurse was unsure about a diagnosis or required a second opinion she would have told me so and referred me to the GP – so I get the best of both worlds, advice from a qualified professional and fast treatment. In fact some studies have shown that a Nurse Practitioner actually carries out between 80% and 90% of the tasks which a GP does. Furthermore I have not taken up a GP appointment allowing someone else to use it.
I’m not too sure if there are Nurse Practitioners available at all GP surgeries but I have used mine on more than one occasion and I honestly think it’s a fantastic service, and if more people used them (where available) I would like to think it would reduce waiting times for those who do need to see a doctor for a genuine medical reason.